Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ Masjid Negara – Symbol of National Religion and Identity
Like most of the national projects built after Malaysia declared independence, Masjid Negara bears the name Negara or Merdeka, which mean Country and Independence respectively. Before the construction of Masjid Negara (National Mosque), there were already a few mosques in Kuala Lumpur. For instance, the Friday Mosque (Masjid Jamek) was built in the early city center by the British. The Friday Mosque is a typical Moorish, Indo-Saracenic or Mughal style mosque of domes.
To establish the identity of the newly independent country, the new national mosque was planned and designed in a way to be purely Malaysian. The design committee consisted of Malaysian architects like Baharuddin bin Abu Kassim. The concept of Baharuddin’s design came from a traditional Malay house with a series of double-pitched roofs interlocked, which was completely different from the design approaches of other mosques in Kuala Lumpur. The main structure was a modernist “concrete box” and the ceiling as a pyramid. It also responded to climatic and cultural aspect. The extraction of a Malaysian form instead of foreign domical forms reflected the determination of the architects and government to build up the Malay identity as well as the symbol of the state religion Islam. Masjid Negara can be described as a Malaysian Mosque designed by Malaysians – a mosque only for the nation.
Chee Kien, Lai. Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1966. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas, 2007.
LLC Books. Mosques in Malaysia: Masjid Negara, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque, Crystal Mosque, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque. Memphis: General Books LLC, 2010.